Hundreds killed in homophobic violence, says Human Rights Watch

A wave of violence against men suspected of homosexual activity has claimed hundreds of lives, according to a report released Monday by Human Rights Watch, which accuses religious militias and also blames widespread apathy among police.


AFP - Iraqi militias are increasingly torturing and executing men suspected of homosexuality but the authorities in Baghdad are doing nothing to stop the violence, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

"This report... documents a campaign of violence against men in Iraq who are suspected of being gay or who simply don't act masculine enough in the eyes of their killers," said Scott Long, director of HRW's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Programme.

The New-York based group said hundreds of men have been kidnapped, tortured and killed this year in a wave of violence that began in the Sadr City stronghold of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in Baghdad.

The report, entitled "'They want us exterminated': Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq'," said it is almost impossible to calculate how many men were killed, but estimated the figure in the hundreds.

Mahdi Army spokesmen have suggested that violent action was the remedy for the "feminisation" of Iraqi men, according to the report in which survivors are quoted as saying militiamen invade homes and interrogate victims before killing them in order to identify other potential victims.

HRW said in the report issued in Beirut that Iraqi doctors and morgue employees also have records of grotesque torture marks on the bodies of men, including mutilation and even anuses glued shut.

Motives for the murders include "fears that Iraqi men's masculinity is under threat," HRW reported.

It also said some of the murders were so-called honour killings, carried out by victims' family members "because 'unmanly' behaviour threatens the reputation of the family or tribe."

Some Iraqis interviewed by the rights group charged that in some cases members of the security forces had colluded and even joined in the killing.

"Iraq’s leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate," Long said.

"Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi."

One man recounted the night his life partner of 10 years was abducted and killed in April: "It was late one night, and they came to take my partner at his parents' home. Four armed men barged into the house, masked and wearing black.

"They asked for him by name; they insulted him and took him in front of his parents... He was found in the neighbourhood the day after. They had thrown his corpse in the garbage. His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out."

The report said men have fled to neighbouring countries, despite consensual homosexual activity being illegal in states such as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, even though it is not a criminal offence under Iraqi law.

"Although many militias in Iraq claim to be enforcers of Islamic law, the Human Rights Watch report also shows how the killings -- committed without evidence or trial, on the basis of prejudice and whim -- violate standards in sharia law for legality, proof and privacy," the report said.

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